Monday, September 5, 2011
Monday 5th SeptemberI suppose that I should take up the story two weeks ago and fill in the final 10 days or so in Zambia. However, now that I am once more in the UK, I think it likely that I will follow themes rather than present a strict chronological diary.I returned home feeling weary and suffering from a heavy cold – very much accentuated my my habitual cough. As usual life became very hectic at the end of my visit and I think the frantic activity at the end took its toll.
I am coming around now, but only slowly am I able to assess my visit. Of course the first question I am asked is “was it a successful visit?” This is always difficult to answer – and, feeling ill and worn out, my responses are bound to be biased to the negative.Today I will concentrate on Jennipher. In 2006 I wrote Jennipher's story – which you can read on the HATW website www.hatw.org.uk. A lot has happened since then and an update is well overdue – something I will rectify soon.
Since Jennipher's family has, in many ways, become my family in Zambia, it seemed appropriate for Jennipher to spend some time with my Dilys and Amy when they arrived. It was not initially intended that Jennipher would meet them at the Airport. It seemed sensible to give her a lift to Lusaka to get the bicycle ambulance and, having made that decision, I knew that she should accompany us to the airport. The fact that the equipment fitted in the vehicle was a bonus, which gave her time to re-establish the friendship with Dilys and to get to know Amy.Over recent years Jennipher has developed an expertise in setting up AIDS support groups. She seems to understand the way to encourage people to become interested. She is good at getting the headmen involved and is becoming better at finding addition support locally and from NGOs.
This year HATW paid a formal visit to see what she is doing. An early result of which has been the provision of the bicycle ambulance. The bicycle ambulance has created a lot of interest. I have been keen to inform people in the Catholic Church as well local government, and people are eager to monitor how it works. A week last Friday, Dilys, Amy and myself were invited to Pemba. There we were guests of honour at a meeting where Jennipher had several support groups represented. (One group claimed to be based more than 100 kilometres away and yet was set up by Jennipher!) The bicycle ambulance took pride of place and was demonstrated by Soloman. The headman representing the chief headman said proudly that the bicycle ambulance was not Jennipher's nor was it for Lyaabe Support group, in fact it was not even for all the AIDS support groups, but it was for the whole community. Anyone who needed transport to a clinic or hospital could use it. He also thought it should be used to help transport coffins to the graveyard for burial, because this was also a problem they had. He believed that it would prove to be a valuable asset.In recent years when I have visited Jennipher, she has often brought together people from her support groups so that they can talk directly to me and I can can respond. I believe that this has helped to prevent misunderstandings and to reduce suspicions that Jennipher is involving me purely for her own personal benefit.
At the meeting on Friday there were many requests for support. The group from Hatontila said they had resources but they hadn't the manpower. They had water and the headman was willing to provide land for a garden, but they needed a treadle pump to pump the water from the lake. Other groups said they needed a few goats in order to start income generating schemes. Jennipher responded by saying that if they registered the groups, they would be able to gain access to funds to finance the sort of income generating projects they needed. For me this too showed great progress because Jennipher was seeing ways of spreading the burden of support.The meeting was at least a very different experience for Amy! When we arrived we were greeted by a group who welcomed us in song and led us in a musical procession to Jennipher's house where others took up the welcome with more songs and hymns that spoke of their delight that we had joined them. Amy was too shy to say too much, but reacted with courtesy and respect. She sat next to Dilys and myself on the three piece suite under the shade of a tall tree! Dilys and myself said a few words of introduction and I was asked for comments about what was discussed. I stressed the importance of registration and the value of working together in partnership. I said that if the groups could raise part of the registration fee, that I would agree to find the rest. Dilys finished by saying a little about child bereavement – the topic she had covered in more depth in 2006.
In the final week or so I had a chance to speak again with the manager from DATF. I was able to say a little more about the bicycle ambulance and Jennipher's plans. She agreed to help Jennipher with the process of registration – together with her colleague.Since arriving back home Jennipher has told me that her groups have already raised their portion of the registration fee, so I was able to forward the balance today via Western Union. Hopefully this should move the groups forward another step.It was important that Amy had a chance to visit Livingstone – and Victoria Falls – before she left Zambia. It was also right for her to have a little relaxation, to see the beauty and potential of this country and to have a little time to reflect on what she had seen in Monze. I was offered transport by Fr. Kenan and decided to use the opportunity to give Jennipher a 'different' experience. So on the last Sunday we picked Jennipher from Pemba on our way to Livingstone. I think that it proved to be a wonderful experience for all of us, but perhaps because it was new to both Amy and Jennipher I suspect they had a particularly memorable time.
You will have to wait for the details of the Livingstone trip – and some more photos!I feel that certainly with Jennipher's projects we have made good progress. I was delighted this year that Dilys and particularly Amy was able to join me.
Somehow Amy's presence made a lot of difference. Perhaps it is because she is of a different generation, perhaps the family made everything more friendly an less formal, in any case I was very proud to have my granddaughter share a very special part of my life. It has also strengthened the ties between our families.